Have you ever wondered where the most voracious ebook readers live? Probably not.
It’s a fun question, though, and for the the first time ever I present the data to you.
I set out to determine which states ebook buyers live in, and then I wanted to know how the states stack up against one another.
The numbers are surprising, especially when you look at per capita consumption.
Here’s how I pulled together the numbers below. Smashwords distributes over 20,000 ebooks to Barnes & Noble. They report to us a breakdown of sales by state. I summed up all Smashwords sales, broken down by state, from Barnes & Noble for the three month period of December, 2010 through February, 2011. Next, I divided each state’s sales by the sum of the total to determine the percentage of all ebooks sales from each state. Then I added US population data from the latest US census. Next, I determined what percent of the US population lives in each state. Finally, to determine the how states rank against each other on ebook sales, I normalized the data on a per capita basis. I did this by dividing each state’s percentage of overall sales they represent by the percentage of the US population they represent. Dizzy yet? This gave me the final, coolest numbers of them all, a normalized measure of per capita ebook consumption for each state.
So here’s the first set of data, where I look at which states generate the highest (and lowest) overall sales. Obviously, the states with the largest populations are likely to purchase the most ebooks.
US States, Ranked by Aggregate Ebook Purchases
Now here’s where it gets really interesting. Let’s look at per capita consumption. Take a look at the Ebook Per Capita Sales Ratio column. This is how each state stacks up against the others, adjusted for population. Alaska, which ranks #47 in terms of overall population, ranks #1 for per capita ebook purchases measured by dollar volume. With a score of 2.92, this means they purchase 292% of the per capita than the average state, or almost triple the national average. A score of 100% means average, 200% means double the average, etc. So as you see, Alaska, North Dakota and Utah round out the top three, and Mississippi, California and the District of Columbia round out the bottom three. My home state of California, really?
Per Capita Ebook Consumption
A good statistician (and I don’t claim to be one – I earned a D+ in statistics at UC Berkeley, and after retaking the class I earned a B-, nothing to brag about so I won’t), I should poke some holes in my data. This data only looks at sales through Barnes & Noble. It doesn’t take into account the geographic distribution of B&N’s physical stores (this might impact where they’ve sold nooks, which would then impact customer counts). It doesn’t take into consideration B&N’s market share in each state. It doesn’t take into consideration the age, sex, per capita income levels or language breakdowns of each state’s population, or the penetration of broadband or dial-up access. I don’t disclose the total number of books represented by these three months of sales, or the aggregate sales value, or the average price per book, or the category of book sold. We’re a private company, so we don’t disclose these numbers (though I can tell you it’s a statistically significant number).
I published my raw data online over at the Smashwords Slideshare channel. I invite the true statisticians among you to download my numbers as a starting point for further number crunching. For example, the US Census Data page, where I gathered the population data, has other interesting data sets you can throw against my data, such as median household income, age of population (under 18, over 65), college education, home ownership rates, etc., so I encourage others to mine the data for more meaning. All I ask is that you reference Smashwords as the source of the data and link back to the blog (oh, and please encourage your favorite authors to publish and distribute with Smashwords! Okay, that’s optional). Also email me links to your analysis and I’ll link to it below so others can enjoy your findings.